Monstrous Depression Relived: Stacked Deck for Immigrant Survival

Only a few living souls can look backwards at what it was like for those who fought hard to survive the vissicitudes of America’s Great Depression’s crush on the human spirit.

Inspiring me my whole life, Grandma Maja’s story has inspired me to take my troubles in stride as hers were monstrous by comparison. Stories I have read about women successfully negotiating the Depression woes are increasingly inspiring to me.

Grandma Maja was an immigrant and therefore had extra challenges during Depression times of assimilation and adjusting in pursuing the vision of a Swedish American Dream shared with Carl Oscar Wittenstrom.

Classic photo of a migrant mother shows frustration and despair searching for hope.

I wonder, over and over how My Grandma Maja managed to rally. Being an immigrant was an extra load added to what American women in particular endured as the Stock Market crashed and brought a tidal wave of economic woes. I often wonder if Grandma Maja ever heard the inspiring words of Eleanor Roosevelt in any of her public speeches on radio or printed in the press?

My hunch is that she was too busy working or caring for children, or occupied in her nursing job, catching some sleep, managing her tenants in her rooming house. Maja was overwhelmed.

From 1917-1932, these were tough years for Maja. But, 1932-1949 were even tougher. The strain of it all broke Maja’s spirit, and in the late 1930s suffered a breakdown. She could no longer handle the stress, pressure and strain.

Tough Times

In my book, I go into detail describing what today’s psychologists call Maja’s PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The death Maja’s older brother Aron from Spanish Flu, and father of cancer, bearing a stillborn child, dealing with a sudden heart attack of her 35 year old husband, all were impacting dynamics which bore heavily on the fighting spirit of my immigrant widowed grandmother.

Endurance Tested

Immigrant Homesickness added to the load of being a breadwinner challenged her being alone with 3 young kids in a strange land. Her husband’s relatives did not offer much support being occupied with their own struggles.


Looking back, at times Maja might have felt like Humpty Dumpty in the popular children’s nursery rhyme. Who would rescue Maja, an immigrant essentially on her own to make it or be broken in defeat?

Maja stood tall, managed a smile and over and over conquered log jams that challenged her everyday existence.

Immigrant Despair and Art

Artwork depicting the pressures on immigrant women.
I close my eyes at times and try to imagine how Maja felt?

In a grandmotherly way, Grandma Maja described her journey through the tough times without claiming extraordinary power.

Maja spoke of her partnership with God and gave testimony to strength she received from above especially when she was lost, feeling hopeless and despairing.

Strength from Above

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

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